"And Now for a Word" takes the unusual step of presenting a day-in-the-life of B5 seen through the eyes of a TV news crew, just as the Narn declare war on the Centauri. The inclusion of a PSI-Corps commercial paid homage to Paul Verhoeven's satirical ads in Robocop (1987). In "In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum", Sheridan learns that Morden was on the ship on which Anna died, this episode seeing the Captain pushed to his limits by grief and determination to discover why Morden survived. Three exceptional shows conclude the year. The Narn-Centauri war escalates in "The Long, Twilight Struggle", Sheridan faces a most unusual ordeal in "Comes the Inquisitor", while in "The Fall of Night" all hope of peace is shattered as a nerve-wracking assassination attempt reveals a startling secret about Ambassador Kosh.
On the DVD: Babylon 5--Series 2 presents all 22 episodes anamorphically enhanced at 16:9, with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Originally shot with eventual widescreen presentation in mind, the programmes looks far better than they did when broadcast. The effects shots, reformatted from full-screen CGI, show occasional pixilation, but the new compositions are more dynamic than the old 4:3. Always a show with powerful audio, the remixed soundtrack is rich and involving, if lacking in the bass punch and complex layering of much more expensive cinema productions. Extras are an introduction to Series 2 (eight mins) and Building Babylon: Blueprint of an Episode (13 mins), is a perfunctory promotional piece. More interesting is Shadows and Dreams, an eight-minute feature on B5's two Hugo Awards. Three episodes have commentaries, with J Michael Straczynski examining the politics, mythology and production of In the Shadow of Z'Ha'Dum and The Fall of Night, and stars Bruce Boxleitner, Claudia Christian and Jerry Doyle have a decidedly low-brow laugh-fest through The Geometry of Shadows. There is an alternative French soundtrack and subtitles for the hard-of-hearing. --Gary S Dalkin
Season 2 finally picks up the pace and begins to show the promise of what this series could do. While many of the stories are still stand alones, things begin to heat up and the arc gets moving. While some of the mysteries of season one are finally revealed, they only leave more questions. And the power of the writing and performances steps up a notch. In fact, it was the first time I watched the season’s title episode, “The Coming of Shadows,” that I knew I would be a fan for a long time to come. Yet there are still some very fun character stories and moments, like “Soul Mates” and Ivanova’s storyline in “Acts of Sacrifice.”
Once again, this set has all 22 episodes from the season on 6 discs. Picture quality could still use a little improvement, but it’s a minor complaint and the programs sound fine. The data files are helpful to newbies, but I found them a little redundant. What I did find interesting was the timeline. Covering events through the end of this season (2259), it helped me place in “history” various events only talked about during the show.
The other features are intended for the fans because they spoil much of this season and some of the rest of the show. The feature on the making of an episode was interesting to this entertainment junkie. But the best part was the commentaries. Jerry Doyle, Bruce Boxleitner, and Claudia Christian provide a hilarious if not very informative commentary on one episode. For those wanting a bit more behind the scenes information, J. Michael Straczynski provides plenty of it on his commentary on two episodes.
This is the year that things start to get good. With the background of season 1, this set will be enjoyed for years to come.
Other have spoken at length about the season's storylines so I will concentrate on the technical aspects of the DVDs themselves. The picture quality in this season is a marked improvement over the first season DVDs but is still very variable. Certain shots are nice and crisp while others are distinctly fuzzy. The special effects shots however are much better this season. Unlike the first season, they were done on PC rather than an Amiga and were created in 16:9 format meaning they transfer to DVD without additional cropping and zooming which resulted in very pixelated effects in the first season DVDs. Like the first season, there is a decent range of extras including commentaries on certain episodes.
One thing that has not been improved sadly is the packaging. The DVDs come in a plastic case that is surrounded by a very thin cardboard sleave. The manufacturers really need to look at how Buffy/Angel package their season DVD sets and come up with something more robust. Overall I give this release 4 stars. It is an excellent show only let down by the patchy picture quality and poor packaging.
The season title is 'The Coming of Shadows'. We see Londo's agonising descent into darkness as his ambition, with the aid of the mysterious Shadows, starts to become terrifying reality. Earth is in turmoil due to events at the end of the last season, and some very sinister things start to happen there. We learn what a Vorlon looks like under his encounter suit. In short, the arc moves up a couple of gears, until by the end of the season you're left gasping, desperate to see the continuation.
There are some truly magnificent (never bettered) episodes in this season. The Hugo award winning "The Coming of Shadows" episode is the obvious first WHAM! episode, and stands out. With audio commentary by series creator J. Michael Straczynski this will be interesting even if you've seen it dozens of times. Other highlights include: "The Long Twilight Struggle" (with cast commentary), "The Fall of Night" (with JMS commentary), "In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum", "And Now For A Word", "Comes The Inquisitor", "Acts of Sacrifice" and many more. Basically, the quality just jumps up a few notches with this season, and if you've only ever experienced Star Trek before, this season will show you just what TV SF can be and should be.
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